Belfast Telegraph

Adams no longer an MP, says Bercow

Commons Speaker John Bercow has ruled that Gerry Adams is disqualified from membership of the Westminster Parliament amid confusion over his resignation.

The Prime Minister told MPs earlier that the Sinn Fein president had "accepted" an office of profit under the Crown, in line with parliamentary protocols.

But Mr Adams later said: "I simply resigned. I was not consulted nor was I asked to accept such an office. I am an Irish republican. I have had no truck whatsoever with these antiquated and quite bizarre aspects of the British parliamentary system."

Following a point of order from Labour's Thomas Docherty in the Commons, Mr Bercow said: "I can inform the House that I have received formal notification from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Gerard Adams has been appointed to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead."

The Speaker said that under the Disqualification Act 1975, Mr Adams was "therefore disqualified from membership of the House".

Mr Bercow's comments were greeted with cheers from backbenchers across the chamber.

An MP can only resign by accepting one of the symbolic offices of profit of Steward or Bailiff of Her Majesty's three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham, or of the Manor of Northstead. Erskine May, an influential text that acts as a rule book for parliamentarians, states that: "It is a settled principle of parliamentary law that a Member, after he is duly chosen, cannot relinquish his seat; and, in order to evade this restriction, a Member who wishes to retire accepts office under the Crown which legally vacates his seat and obliges the House to order a new writ."

Mr Bercow said: "Erskine May describes the course of events in cases in the past but, as I have ruled, the law is clear. Appointment to one of the two offices I have referred to under section four of the Act results in disqualification."

Mr Docherty said the Prime Minister had inadvertently misled the House with his remarks during Commons question time.

Commons Leader Sir George Young suggested that the Prime Minister should not have used the word "accepted" and instead said "is being appointed". Sir George told MPs: "Of course my Right Hon friend (Mr Cameron) would never intentionally mislead the House."

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